C. Thomas Howell, Tyshawn Bryant, Rachel Montez Collins, Johanna Watts, Robert Wu
Thunder Levin, George Saunders
Seminal Films (DVD)
Soundtrack by West Coast rapper "Vital"
After a successful run on the horror festival circuit, Thunder Levin's low-budget zombie flick Mutant Vampire Zombies From the 'Hood has been picked up for a May 18th, 2010 DVD release by the wonderfully off-kilter folks at Seminal Films.
The film opens with a South Central Los Angeles police stakeout where a Chinese gang is about to hand over the kidnapped girlfriend of a local Black gang in exchange for a suitcase full of cocaine. Of course, nothing goes as planned and the lead detective, David (C. Thomas Howell)), ends up in a firefight with the two gangs while the world outside is changing more than anyone could possibly know.
If everyone is to survive, they will have to unite. Unite they do as they catch wind of a surviving scientist and his brilliant (and beautiful) daughter who have figured out the big secret behind the sudden appearance of mutant vampire zombies.
Now then, if you're starting off a viewing of Mutant Vampire Zombies From the 'Hood expecting a brilliant film then you're not just insane but headed for major disappointment. There's nothing brilliant about this flick, something you'll likely catch on to with its opening sequence that screams out bad B-movie with a certain kind of flair.
Yet, if you're like me and almost hopelessly burned out on zombie flicks, Mutant Vampire Zombies From the 'Hood may very well be a pleasant surprise with its surprisingly well drawn out characters, courtesy of co-screenwriters Thunder Levin and George Saunders, and an abundance of dark, broad and genuinely funny situations.
At times feeling like a blend of Night of the Comet with the Wayans' Brothers Don't Be a Menace, Mutant Vampire Zombies From the Hood works because the fine ensemble cast seems to have all caught on to the film's urban zombie-lite vibe. C. Thomas Howell, who made his name in films such as The Outsiders and Red Dawn before pretty much being relegated to an indie flick career, is quite delightful here in a role not too far removed from that of Woody Harrelson in the recent hit Zombieland.
In addition to an abundance of appropriate and topical humor, the film includes a load of movie references ranging from Snakes on a Plane (a bit stale) to Nosferatu (dead on) to Aliens (nearly perfect). Tyshawn Bryant, as G-Dog, looks and sounds like a long lost Wayans, while KeiKabou Holland steals just about every scene he's in as a freaking out gang banger whose Nosferatu references are consistently funny. As the leader of the Asian gang, Robert Wu displays some solid comic timing, and Maxie J. Santillan, Jr. is great as an old man who teaches the gang some new tricks for dealing with the zombies. Hollywood vet Gregalan Williams and Johanna Watts are terrific as the father/daughter duo who may hold the secret to ultimate survival. Jeremiah Birkett, who shined in last year's Lo, shines as a supporting player here.
The Oscar-winning American Makeup and Effects (Pirates of the Caribbean films) created the makeup and effects here, a definite highlight of the film in capturing a mood that is equal parts funny, zombie, a touch of horror and respectful of the film's modest budget. Somewhat surprisingly, it all works quite nicely. The film's accompanying soundtrack, courtesy of rapper Vital (who also is a supporting player here), is a blast.
While it would be impossible to give Mutant Vampire Zombies From the 'Hood a rave review, it's a rock solid enough experience that fans of zombie flicks will likely find much to enjoy here and, I'd tossed in that encouragement to pick up the film may lie in a late movie reference to a potential sequel that I'm pretty darn sure most of us (including this critic) would want to see. Better than the vast majority of low budget zombie flicks, kudos go to the entire team for an absurd cinematic experience that zombie connoisseurs are sure to enjoy.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic